Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Apologies to faithful readers of this blog for the prolonged silence!
Life seems to finally be picking up in my part of the world. Since that much vaunted, better-than-sliced-bread Government of National Unity finally came into being, geese have been laying golden eggs, someone put Humpty Dumpty together again, the secret to world peace has been found, and pigs are flying regularly. Julius Malema has come and gone, leaving some new jokes (about him, that is) in his wake. Zimbabweans have, unsurprisingly, fast-adjusted to having real money around, and have rapidly been increasing prices, just so we don’t forget the old days. Many people have been working for no or half pay, because industry is still operating far below capacity (in most cases, 40%, although Colcom reports that it is now at 100% capacity). People have forgotten how to complain, even when the Mayor of Bulawayo buys an official car that’s better suited to a movie star than the mayor of a city that has a pothole for every half-metre of road. Maybe we are just grateful for the semblance of normality.
Power shortages are so common that most people just resign themselves to using whatever else there is for fuel, i.e. wood, gel (that’s hard to explain if you don’t know what it is), paraffin; and to going to bed at whatever time ZESA (the power company) determines. I was in Harare a few weeks ago, living the tough life (no, really), and I discovered that there are loads of people who can’t afford the $1 it costs to buy one litre of paraffin in many townships. Eggs are R2 each, and bread is still about $1. Many Bulawayans have decided South African (GM or genetically modified, they say) chicken sucks, even though it costs about R30 for 2 kg, and now prefer to buy local chicken, which costs between $5 and $7. We’re still consuming a lot of South African products, although Zim stuff is gradually reappearing on the shelves. For those of you less fluent in exchange rates, the USD : Rand rate in Bulawayo is 1:7.5, and 1:10 in Harare (-which, incidentally, infuriates Bulawayans).
In truth, life is so much better that every time we talk about “the way things were”, it’s like a dream. In spite of the problems I mention above, what everyone goes on about is, at least we have food now. I think we were under a lot of pressure, but no one really realized just how much until it lifted… There is an overwhelming sense of relief, still, and it comes with euphoria… Which I experienced second-hand when there was a Tuku (Oliver Mtukudzi) show near where I live. Since I couldn’t sleep, I lay awake wondering when the last time was when I heard Bulawayans having so much fun (I assume) into the early hours of the morning. I noticed it at Easter, too, when the road to Harare (again, near where I live) was lined with hundreds of would-be travellers, many of whom had been unable to see relatives in other parts for years. And I notice it when I read the paper, and see signs of cautious optimism, with people able to put in classified ads for things like birthdays and so on, and with the business section of the paper full of stories of growth (-wait a minute, the paper actually HAS a business section again!). I see people walking into a shop to buy a cellphone, and handing over $2 or $5 to get a sim card. I hear people making plans to buy cars, and I see people shopping for clothes, and living semi-normal lives.
I guess that’s what we call hope.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Hvernig gæti ég hafa ímyndað mér að það ætti fyrir mér að liggja, að bjarga tveim Norðmönnum í vanda, á þessum sólríka laugardegi? Það varð hinsvegar raunin, þó svo endanleg ninðurstað þessarar aðgerðar liggi ekki endanlega fyrir enn.